Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’Acts 27:23-24 NIV
What do you do when you find yourself a prisoner because of your faith, being transported under armed guard for your trial, and a massive storm strikes? I suspect that most believers would spend at least some time in prayer. Praying for safety in the storm; for you and your friends. And that you would be delivered a negative verdict in your trial. And Paul does pray, but he goes beyond those expected requests. Paul also prays for deliverance for all of those who are on the ship with him. This includes the ship’s crew, the Roman guards, other prisoners, and others who were just trying to get to Rome. A total of 276 people.
Most commonly, when we pray, we have to wait to see how God is going to answer us. But in this case, God sent an angel to encourage Paul, and to provide him with an answer to his prayer. He would be spared from the storm. He would stand trial before Caesar. And, God had graciously given to Paul the lives of those who sailed with him. It seems like, apart from Paul’s prayer, many of those aboard this beleaguered ship would have perished. But, in answer to Paul’s prayer, they were all delivered.
Many times we may not receive the answer to prayer that we had hoped for. We might pray for the salvation of a loved one. Or for healing, either for ourselves or another. Why does God sometimes seem to answer prayer, and other times not? It is important to recognize that God is not like a vending machine; drop in a prayer, and out comes the desired response. God is the sovereign Lord of all creation. He answers us as he sees best; not how we always want. But God does respond to us and, as this passage testifies, gives us the opportunity in prayer to make a difference in other’s lives, and in the world around us.